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Montgomery’s Urban Wild: Design Potential of Cypress Nature Park

Montgomery's Urban Wild Student Site Visit

Situated in the heart of Montgomery, it’s hard to imagine that just a mile north of Alabama’s Capitol Building lies a 260-acre forest containing wetlands, ancient river bluffs, and deep ravines. This seemingly forgotten land is home to many species, both plants and animals, and offers a tremendous resource for ecological observation, research, and recreation.  This past fall, students from Auburn’s graduate landscape architecture program in a studio led by David Hill explored the design potentials embedded in this territory.

This area has been affectionately christened the Cypress Nature Park in the hopes that it will one day be open and accessible to the public. Due to the incredibly nuanced biodiversity and its unique geographic position surrounded by urban and industrial development, Cypress Nature Park offers a great opportunity to study the dynamic ecology of an urban wild. The landscape students explored strategies that simultaneously celebrated the urban wilds by opening them up to visitors while also protecting the fragile ecologies that have emerged. The large number of public schools and universities located within the City of Montgomery offer a unique opportunity for all age groups to experience the surreal scale and vigorous life of this landscape.

The student explorations not only engage the Cypress Nature Park but extend strategic tentacles into the surrounding landscape as well. Vacant lands along with a handful of active industries surround the park to the west while neighborhoods are perched above the bluffs to the east. Former rail lines, brick mines, and vacant lands are reemployed as regenerative greenways that integrate the park into the broader fabric of the city.

The proposals have been gathered and assembled into a book, allowing the city of Montgomery to begin to assemble strategic partnerships, possible funding, and political will for the careful opening of the urban wilds within the Cypress Nature Park.